Responding to Sexual Violence at Yale

By Daniel Tahara, Class of 2014, Computer Science & Mathematics, Yale University

Daniel Tahara

Yale’s response to the challenges of sexual violence and inequities on campus has been highly visible, yet equally inadequate.  By creating a committee to address the Title IX suit (filed against the University by male and female students and recent alumni who allege that the University’s failure to properly handle incidents of assault has created a “hostile environment,”), they might have been able to address the issue in a meaningful way.  The mistake they made, however, was assuming that the committee could be a panacea.  Furthermore, by requiring all campus leaders to attend a sexual harassment training event masquerading as “leadership training,” they only did more to exacerbate the real problem: that sexual violence is not regarded as seriously as it should be and that any attempt at systemic change is viewed as something of a joke.

As I have learned during my time at Yale, there is an unspoken belief that the victims of sexual violence should not speak out or report the incidents, as doing so would “ruin” the life of the offender. To some degree the hesitancy is understandable— I do believe people make mistakes and should be given second chances, and that alcohol can blur the bounds of culpability in certain situations. But what of the victim?  While empathy is a cherished virtue, empathy leading to inaction perpetuates the problem, because both the offender and the victim know that there will be few, if any, consequences.

I do want to reiterate that I am not seeking to single out Yale, or any other institution for that matter; it is merely the example to which I can best relate.  The underlying pattern is common on all college campuses across the country.  Where this pattern fits into the broader question of relationships and sexuality is in the pervasiveness of the hook-up culture for the late-teen through early-20s age group.  I haven’t yet fully wrapped my head around it, so I am in no position to criticize.  However, based on my specific, albeit limited exposure to it, I do feel comfortable saying that the hook-up culture is incompatible with a culture of openness and conversation.  “Hooking up” seems to have become a tag for two people who are having a physical relationship who don’t actually address an underlying emotional connection (or lack thereof).  Not to say that a strictly physical relationship cannot be healthy, but when there is no communication, that is where troubles start.

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. I think it’s important to take this opportunity to discuss the issue, because the way I see it, education and open communication are the best ways to prevent sexual violence.

That’s my take. What do you think?

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